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  • Jake Kindred

Prepping to film 6 music videos in 11 days

Updated: Apr 4



Music videos have been one of my favourite productions to work on for a long time, collaborating with bands and artists was very much part of my early career post-University around 2013. I would spend a lot of time with bands travelling around the UK and Europe creating mini-documentaries and taking photos at shows, as well as creating music videos and promos for a range of different genres. A recent music video project for the band LiveaLie has been one of my most notable music video productions, here's a look into the pre-production for filming 6 music videos back-to-back!

 

I was contacted by James, a member of the band Livealie in Spring 2023. He outlined an interesting music video project for their new album, and they wanted to shoot 6 music videos that each had their own themes but ran concurrently to tell an overall narrative that the audience can follow along with. We hashed out the basics of what they wanted to achieve and the overall style for the videos, I put together a treatment with a budget and costings, and we were off!

 

This project had a few logistical challenges, but one of the biggest was that three out of four of the band members live in New York, and the total time they were available to fly over to shoot the videos was a total of three days. With full-band performance sections envisioned in each video, we had to think strategically about the best way to schedule the shoot to film everything we needed.

 

But as with all projects, we started with a blank canvas and began building up and developing our ideas in the pre-production stage. After a few online discussions, meetings and creative sessions, we came up with the loose foundations and structure of a narrative that would work for the videos. The band were keen to play around with themes of cult-like influences, purgatory, and ideas of self-reflection and internal change, whilst also utilising pre-existing visual references of CRT TVs, television static, and an overall ‘VHS’ theme.

 

We decided that 5 of the 6 music videos would share the same performance space and environment, with small lighting changes for each song to give the performances as much individual character as we could. This was a pivotal decision in the planning stages, as it was a big factor contributing towards the final look and feel of the music videos, as well as on the logistics and schedule (meaning we could shoot the majority of the performance scenes in one day!). We felt having a concurrent performance space throughout the music videos would help create a sense of cohesion between the series of videos and offer an almost ‘live session’ dynamic to an otherwise cinematic and visually captivating set of videos.

 

We began piecing together the foundations of the storyline, which I then wrote up into a traditional script that we could use as a fundamental base to work from during the production of the music videos, and also gave us greater perspective on what we needed to organise ahead of time to make sure the filming days went as smoothly as possible. I’ve always enjoyed writing and scriptwriting, for myself it’s a fundamental process that allows me to organise all the ideas and influences in my head into a workable format.



With the script signed off and ready-to-go, we needed to look at casting somebody to play the main role of our character in the narrative. The band helped with this tremendously, as they had a great vision of what they wanted the lead role to look like. I put out a casting call across a few of the more well-known platforms such as Mandy, StarNow and Spotlight. We had some great feedback, and after narrowing it down to a select few, we ended up working with a fantastic actor called Olly Roy, who fit the role perfectly and was a joy to be on-set with during the shoot. Members of the band and I spent a few evenings going through the script and different scenes with Olly over FaceTime, discussing how we could best portray emotions in scene X or deliver the best performance in scene Y.

 

At this point, it’s probably worth noting how easy it is has become to communicate within and organise an international production. Google Meet, FaceTime, WhatsApp etc. all came in really handy to communicate back and fourth, and we even used Trello to collaborate on a project board so everyone could stay up to date and reading from the same hymn sheet! Google Sheets was the option of choice when it came to budgeting, props check listing and so on as everybody could share and work from the same document.

 

Next, finding locations. Through my years of working in the industry as a Birmingham Camera Operator, Cinematographer or Director, I’ve managed to collect a great little database of all things filmmaking; props, talent, equipment hire, crew contacts and of course, locations!

I wanted to firm up all the performance locations within the schedule as soon as possible, as we only had three specific days with the full band to collect all the performance shots we needed with all band members present.

I called on Birmingham Film Studio to help provide the space for the main performance scenes. They have a fantastic 1,800sq ft blacked out studio space, including adjustable truss rigging, which was ideal for the size of the setup and set dressing we had in mind for the primary performance scenes. The studio also has showers, chill out areas and a kitchen space, which for the American members travelling over was very handy to have for them to be able to relax and chill out a bit.

We booked the studio space for two days. One day prior to the band flying in to primarily build the performance setup, and then a second day following that to film the performance scenes when the full band were in the UK.



We also needed a run-down looking apartment; this was probably the most difficult of the locations to source. We had plenty of options, but most of them didn’t fit the aesthetic or vibe that we were going for, mainly being too modern and clean! I enlisted the help of Pam from Places and Spaces, a fantastic locations agency in Birmingham, who helped source the perfect location within our budget and geography requirements. They also sourced the breath-taking church location that we needed as part of the narrative and performance scenes for one of the videos. I then finalised on the final few locations that we needed which included a forest to drag a (dummy!) body through and bury in a shallow grave, a smaller studio space for some artsy pick up shots, a basement to shoot a fight scene in, and a sunflower field for some vocal performances and cutaways – all from my little black book of locations and connections that I sourced for the production. I took a recce to visit all these locations beforehand, taking photos and recce images to take back with me to the office so I could better visualise my lighting and camera plans, the required art dressing and props etc.

 


With all the locations that we needed firmed up, this allowed me to finalise a schedule that we could keep to during filming, and would help me in gaining overall perspective of the production timeline, but most importantly it helped me keep a birds-eye-view of what scenes we were filming for each video and when. It took a lot of phone calls and emails, preparation, and planning to coordinate everything we needed to produce 6 music videos in a relatively small shooting window. I knew the American band members could only be in the UK on certain dates, so I scheduled the remaining logistics for the narrative scenes and art visual elements around that. We ended up starting filming on the Tuesday and wrapped on the proceeding Monday for the principal shoot schedule, with a few pick up days after the core shoot. We wouldn’t be able to film all 6 videos in linear order, so some complexity was added by having to jump around from scene-to-scene for different videos, but the crew and our actor Olly did great keeping a clear head during the heat of the shoot!

 

Next, I turned my attention to the creative and artistic elements of the shoot. Reading through our shooting script and story, I made notes and rough illustrations of what I wanted the scenes and spaces that we were filming in to look like generally. The band played off themes of isolation, self-loathing, and mental unpredictability, so I wanted to push these emotions and feelings as much as I could within the mise-en-scene of the videos. Alongside many meetings with the band to nail down ideas and specifics, we started going through scene-by-scene and noting what props and art dressing we needed. We used our allocated budget to purchases props such as cult robes, candles, sheets, wardrove and clothing, cabling, and fake blood to mention but a few. We also spent some time developing ideas around our main characters wardrobe and make up, and how he should look in each scene.

 

For example, look at this mood board below that we created for the performance scenes. Using visual references from a range of different mediums and platforms, we collected various imagery that spoke for the look we were trying to achieve, which helped us in planning the finer details, intricacies and creative elements of the shoot.

 


From a technical side, I drew up some rough lighting and camera plans so myself and my 1st AD Zak Pinchin had a good understanding of what we wanted to achieve with lighting in each location. This allowed us to go into the filming days with a greater understanding of how we wanted to light each scene in each location, which meant we could work quicker and more efficiently to  get the setups turned within the schedule we had.

I used a good amount of Apurture fixtures, including the Lightstorm 1200D, Lightstorm 600D, Lightstorm 300x and the Amaran P60 LED panels. We also used some Astera Titan Tubes during the band performance scenes, both as practical fixtures within the scene to add a bit of visual excitement and as fill lights. Everything was filmed on my Sony FX6 cinema camera, with some b-roll shots filmed on my Sony FX30, which meant we didn’t have to allocate major budget towards camera. It was a great choice for this production for many reasons – high-quality LOG shooting, high frame-rate recording, internal ND filters, as well as having an economic and lightweight footprint.

 


With the shooting schedule approaching, I firmed up any final details and call sheets as well as writing up risk assessments for all major locations we were filming in. I needed to engage various crew with their own skillsets on different days of the filming, depending on what was required. For example, for the narrative scenes in the apartment we were faced with multiple setup changes across the two shooting days, so I opted to bring in an Assistant Camera. We would also be bringing in an external company to hire a large amount of old-school CRT televisions as props for the band performance scenes, which ultimately ended up being one of the best decisions of the entire project, as they gave the performance sections such an exciting visual push! We also hired some equipment from a local film rental house that needed picking up before the shooting started, such as an extra camera and some big light stands!

 

The shoot was a fantastic experience with a great group of creatives and crew who all worked tirelessly to get the job done. The filming phase is covered in a later blog post, be sure to check that out.

 

If you are looking for music video production, I’d love to discuss how I can help. I’ve been a Director of Photography and Camera Operator based in Birmingham and the Midlands for over 10 years. I’ve also played in bands myself and music is overall a big passion of mine, so please get in touch!


Photography by Claire Hodgkins Photography



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LiveaLie - James Harrison, Jordan Lee Corman, Brandon Lee, Andrew Robles


Directed, Shot & Edited - Jake Kindred

1st Assistant Director - Zak Pinchin


Written by - LiveaLie and Jake Kindred

Produced by - LiveaLie, Jake Kindred, Susie Barton

Talent - Olly Roy

Assistant Camera - Marlijn Hegge, Alex Bray

Art Director - James Harrison

BTS - Claire Hodgkins, Sarah Adams

Equipment hire - InsaniTV Visuals, Spaghetti Hire, Robannas Studios





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